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Diagnostic Tests During Pregnancy : An Overview

6 min read

During the nine months of pregnancy a woman has to go through many scans and test to ensure the proper growth of her baby. These diagnostics can make her feel as she has spent her most of the time in doctors’ clinic only. But these tests, scans and regular checkups are very essential and do serve a very important role in spotting, ensuring and preventing any complication during pregnancy so that you and your baby can remain healthier in the long run.
So the question is what do you mean by diagnostic tests and how many tests are required during the whole period of pregnancy?
Pregnancy health check

What Are Diagnostic Tests During Pregnancy?

Diagnostic tests are simple medical tests which are usually offered in order to find any health risk that could affect you or your baby during the nine months of pregnancy. These tests are performed to diagnose or detect any underlying disease. They can also sub classify the disease in terms of severity. Few conditions which can be diagnosed with the help of diagnostic tests are HIV, Diabetes, Down’s syndrome, anemia or any other physical abnormalities. Usually Diagnostic test during pregnancy involves, ultra sound, blood test and urine test.

What Are The Benefits Of Diagnostic Tests In Pregnancy?

Diagnostic tests ensure the early detection of any potential health risk during pregnancy and can help mothers to make well informed decision about their health. These tests are effective in detecting abnormalities like certain hereditary or spontaneous genetic disorders. For example ultrasound can detect your baby’s growth or any physical abnormality like spina bifida, it will also inform you whether you’re having twins or not, whether your pregnancy is ectopic pregnancy or normal one. They can help you and your doctor in deciding the correct treatment during or after your pregnancy.

Which Diagnostic Tests Are Done During Pregnancy?

For a healthy pregnancy, there are many tests and scans that are needed to be done during nine months, here we will take you through each one and will try to explain their importance in pregnant women’s life.

  • Blood Related Diagnostic Tests: These test usually involve a blood sample taken from the pregnant mother. Most of the blood test are generally advised by doctor in first trimester usually during their first visit. But the same can be repeated any time whenever they feel it’s required, most likely in last trimester. Some of the blood tests are:
    Pregnancy blood test

    • RH test: During your first trimester, the doctor will check your blood to confirm the blood group and also to know whether it’s Rh –negative or positive. If it turns out that you are Rh positive then an injection known as Anti- D will be given once during the pregnancy and other after child birth only if your baby is Rh-positive. Anti-D will protect you from developing antibodies that could be dangerous during this pregnancy or in future pregnancies
    • Complete Blood Count(CBC): CBC test is done to know your hemoglobin range. If it’s less then doctor can recommend you some iron supplements and can guide you about iron rich food. The test also inform us about our platelets and white blood cell count – an elevated range will indicate an infection
    • HIV Test: HIV test is a must to have test for a pregnant women. If your result is positive for HIV then medications will be given to you in order to prevent the spread of virus to your unborn baby. In addition, your doctor can advise you to start thinking about C-section as it can prevent spreading the infection
    • TSH Test: This test detects the amounts of TSH in the blood. Below-normal levels of TSH indicate hyperthyroidism and is treated with anti-thyroid medications
    • T3 and T4 Test: If TSH levels are low, another blood test is performed to measure T3 and T4. Elevated levels of free T4 confirm the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism. Read more about Hypothyroidism in pregnancy here
    • Rubella Titter Test: It is done to check the immunity of pregnant women towards rubella virus. Most women are immune to rubella, either because they’ve been vaccinated or had the disease as a child. But if in case you are not immune or your test result showed you vulnerable towards it then it’s very important to avoid anyone who has the infection or has traveled to any such country where the disease is still prevalent
    • Blood Sugar: Blood sugar test is done to check women’s sugar levels and also to determine the chances to develop any diabetes in future months of pregnancy. If in case this test shows higher levels then an immediate change of diet plan or medications are given to the women
    • QUAD or Triple Marker Test: The quad test is usually done between 15 to 20 weeks and is also referred as multiple marker, AFP4 or quadruple test. This test is very useful in detection of chromosomal abnormalities like trisomy 18 and Down syndrome. It can also detect neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Positive result of the test will suggest higher risk and chance that your baby will have a birth defect and a negative or normal result means that your baby probably doesn’t have a birth defect. But it doesn’t guarantee that you will have a normal baby
  • Urine Related Diagnostics Tests: Along with the blood tests your doctor will also recommend you to go for the urine test, it means you have to give them the sample of your urine. Mostly they are advised only one time during the pregnancy but they can be repeated if in case any symptom of urine infection appears any time during the nine months
    • Urine tests during first trimester: Urine test is very important in first trimester because urine infections if not screened and treated timely can cause serious problems to you and your baby. Simultaneously it can also tell us about if any traces of blood, sugar, or protein is found
  • Ultrasound Scans in pregnancy: Ultrasound scans are safe, non-invasive and a very useful diagnostic tool for screening some birth defect (for example NTD defects). They can also detect an ectopic pregnancy, can assess fetal growth and risk of Down syndrome. They can also help you with checking fetal heartbeat, giving you an estimated date of delivery if in case you have no idea when your last period was and can inform you if in case you are pregnant with twins. Mostly, one scan is done in each of the trimesters to check the progress of your fetus but sometimes you might have to do extra scans if you’re having twins or more, or you have any condition which contributes towards high risk pregnancy or you’ve had some problems in previous pregnancies.
    • Scans in first trimester: During first trimester ultrasound is usually performed between 8 to 11 weeks. This ultrasound confirms the gestational age, position of placenta, and presence of multiple pregnancy. It also checks the physical growth and development of fetus. It can also be performed to know the status of pregnancy if in case any bleeding is there
    • Scans in second trimester: During second trimester ultrasound is usually performed between 18-20 weeks. This scan is done to check the growth of your fetus and to ensure that all organs like skull, spine, brain, heart, kidney, lungs are developing in normal pace. Ultrasound in second trimester can also be used to detect Neural tube defects, cardiac defects, any limb defect and gastrointestinal malformations like gastroschisis and exomphalos
    • Scans in third trimester: During third trimester ultrasound is often done after 30 weeks, mainly to confirm the position of your fetus and placenta. To check whether placenta is lying normally or is lying abnormally close to the inside of the cervix a condition known as placenta previa. Ultrasound in third trimester is must when the women is having twin or multiple pregnancy, or has a condition that may affect the baby’s growth, such as pre-eclampsia

Scan during pregnancy

Other Important Tests During Pregnancy
  • Glucose Tolerance Test(GTT): Glucose tolerance test is used to diagnose gestational diabetes in pregnancy. For this test you don’t have to eat or drink anything overnight, your first blood sample will be taken to measure the level of sugar in your blood when you’ve been fasting. Then you will be asked to drink 75g of glucose drink. Your blood will be tested one hours after drinking the glucose. If you have high blood sugar levels on a glucose tolerance test, you’ll be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This makes your pregnancy a high risk pregnancy. Read more about Gestational Diabetes here
  • Non Stress Test(NST): NST is done weekly in your third trimester especially in the last month of your pregnancy if it is coming under high-risk pregnancies, such as in cases of diabetes and high blood pressure. This test monitors the baby heart rate and his moves. A fetal monitor is strapped across the mother’s abdomen for monitoring
  • Contraction Stress Test: CST is done in third trimester for high-risk pregnancies, a fetal monitor measures the baby’s heart rate in response to contractions stimulated by oxytocin. This test is done to predict how well the baby will cope in stress of labor

Apart from all these diagnostic tests during pregnancy regular checkups are very important. A routine check-up in combination with diagnostic tests can help to keep you and your baby healthy.

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